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article imageConsumer Reports: dietary supplements may be contaminated

By Lynn Herrmann     Aug 3, 2010 in Health
A new report just published shows Americans spent $26.7 billion in 2009 on dietary supplements containing unsafe and ineffective ingredients known to cause severe health issues.
Consumer Reports has just published a report showing many popular dietary supplements contain ingredients that may cause heart attack, cancer, liver damage, stroke and even death.
Although more than half of America’s adult population has taken dietary supplements, the supplement marketplace routinely manufactures and sells its product without first being required to show its safety and effectiveness. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has rules covering manufacturing quality, however those rules do not apply to companies supplying vitamins, herbs, and other raw ingredients.
Among the list of ingredients in the report are 12 supplements to avoid. They include aconite, bitter orange, chaparral, colloidal silver, coltsfoot, comfrey, country mallow, germanium, greater celandine, kava, lobelia and yohimbe.
The report lists these 12 as ranging from “unsafe” to “probably unsafe.” For instance, aconite - also known as aconiti tuber, aconitum, or radix aconiti - is unsafe. It “is the most common cause of severe herbal poisoning in Hong Kong.”
China, a major supplier of raw supplement ingredients, has repeatedly been linked to exporting contaminated products. The FDA has not inspected a single factory in the country.
This lack of oversight and control has led to hundreds of reports of adverse reactions by consumers who unknowingly take supplements containing hazardous products, in some cases more than 200 times the labeled amount.
In one instance, John Coolidge, 55, of Signal Mountain, Tenn., began experiencing serious health symptoms after he started taking a supplement called Total Body Formula. He began with the supplement to improve his general health but soon began dealing with one symptom after another: joint pain, hair loss, diarrhea, fingernails and toenails falling off, and lung problems. “It just tore me up,” he said in the report.
What followed were hundreds of other reports on adverse reactions linked to the product, eventually garnering the attention of the FDA. This led the agency to inspect the manufacturer’s facilities and the testing of product content. According to the FDA, most samples contained more than 200 times the labeled amount of selenium and up to 17 times the recommended intake for chromium.
The company voluntarily recalled the products in March 2008.
Consumer Reports worked with the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, an independent research group that evaluates safety and benefit of nutritional supplements, to produce the list.
The report suggests avoiding the 12 listed supplements, as there is insufficient evidence for rating the effectiveness for their claimed uses.
More about Dietary supplements, Consumer reports, Contamination
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